Tag: South Asia Times

Estimates of 2.5 million COVID mortality in India, says data journalist Rukmani S


By SAT News Desk

MELBOURNE, 11 July 2021: It is a discussion topic as to how many lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic in India. The official figures hover around 407,145 (July 10, 2021). The figures from unofficial sources or media (Indian and foreign) and experts are much higher. In a country where even in normal times all deaths are not registered, it is no easy task to get hold of data about COVID-related deaths when the fear of getting a bad name for the country with a higher number of deaths prevails.

From March 2020 till the recent second COVID wave in 2021, India’s total COVID mortality is estimated to be around 2.5 million (25 lakhs), and the second wave figure being around 1.5 million (15 lakhs), reveals Rukmini S, prominent Indian data journalist in an interview to Karan Thapar in the wire.in (https://thewire.in/video/watch-estimate-india-25-lakh-covid-19-deaths-rukmini-s-karan-thapar).

The interview details estimates, calculations, excess deaths, mortality in different states, and high and low percentage of the difference between actual and official mortality figures. It can be confusing for a reader to understand data or statistics when differences in death estimates vary widely.

“Rukmini explains in simple, easy to follow but detailed terms important concepts to do with registration and medical certification of deaths and, in the process, also explains how well or how poorly it’s been done in India. She first talks about the registration of deaths, which the government says is now 92% of all deaths. However, in states like UP, Jharkhand and Bihar it is far lower, i.e. 63%, 59%, and 52% respectively. She then talks about medical certification of deaths by a doctor, which is only 22% nationwide. In some states, it’s a lot lower. For instance, it is 9% in Madhya Pradesh, 7% in UP, 6% in Jharkhand, and 5% in Bihar. In these states, therefore, over 90% of the time we do not have a definitive cause of death.

FULL INTERVIEW from – thewire.in

Even in Kerala, a state that is recognised for its administrative efficiency and good healthcare system, medical certification of death by a doctor is only 12%. ” (https://thewire.in/video/watch-estimate-india-25-lakh-covid-19-deaths-rukmini-s-karan-thapar)

“Rukmini speaks in considerable detail about how she did her seminal work in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and why the excess mortality in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh is 34 and 42 times greater than the official death toll, whereas in states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, excess deaths are 6.2 times, 5.8 times and 1.6 times the official COVID-19 death toll,” the text article accompanying the video interview says.

In the 30 minutes interview, Rukmani explains the method she uses to calculate the true COVID death figures: “This first calls for a calculation of excess deaths, and she explains how that’s done. From this figure of excess deaths, the official COVID-19 death toll is subtracted. What you are left with can be loosely called missing COVID-19 deaths. They are not all COVID-19 deaths, but the vast majority are likely to be.”

Rukmani’s data analysis results contradict the official COVID-19 death figures in India. So, what is the truth? Karan Thapar says and Rukmani agrees a post COVID mortality survey is needed to reach the truth.

The exhaustive interview concludes that the best way to respect the COVID dead in India is the honesty of numbers and misrepresenting figures is an insult to the dead.

From 13 unis to 1: why Australia needs to reverse the loss of South Asian studies


By Craig Jeffery* & Matthew Nelson**

South Asia is crucial to the future of Australia. But Australia has just one (small) program focused on South Asian studies across its many universities.

This has not always been the case. In the mid-1970s, 13 of Australia’s universities offered undergraduate subjects on South Asia (India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives). Students could learn about South Asian coins at ANU and Sanskrit at the University of Wollongong.

Australia boasted some of the leading scholars on South Asia. ANU nurtured subaltern studies – the study of social groups excluded from dominant power structures – which became a global movement in the field of post-colonial analysis. Leading post-colonial scholar Dipesh Chakrabarty was based at the University of Melbourne. Other luminaries active in that period include A.L. Basham, Anthony Low, and Robin Jeffrey.

But, even as the Australian university sector has expanded since the 1970s, it has withdrawn support for Asian studies, and South Asian studies in particular. There is currently only one South Asia or India program – at ANU.

Only five of the 40 Australian universities offer semester-length subjects on India or South Asia. Six universities offered an Indian language in 1996. Now only two do so.

Several universities, often supported by government grants, have launched country or regional research initiatives since 1990. The National Centre for South Asian Studies, based at Monash, is one of these. But Australian universities have not built any strong or sustainable South Asia programs for students.

A trend at odds with national priorities

This point sits oddly alongside a high-level commitment to South Asia in Australia. The Australian government is exploring new forms of engagement with India, including the Quad security dialogue involving India, Australia, Japan, and the US.

At a social level, Australia is increasingly Indian. In 2019 more than 700,000 people in Australia claimed Indian descent. Hindi is among the fastest-growing languages in Australia, and India is the country’s leading source of skilled migrants.

Historically, there are fascinating connections between Australia and South Asia. The lives and work of Australia’s “Ghans” (cameleers) is one famous example.

Moving forward, Australia needs a knowledge base to match this longstanding and increasingly important commitment to India and South Asia more generally.

Out of step with global academic practice

Australian universities could learn from their counterparts in other parts of the world how to integrate area studies into their teaching. Outside of Australia, most of the top universities in the world make great play of their area studies expertise. Area studies enables people to apprehend their own distinctive humanity, anchors innovative cross-disciplinary teaching across the university, and provides a basis for re-evaluating assumptions about a person’s disciplinary field.

Students arriving at Oxford, Yale or Columbia know that if they are studying law, business, art, politics, education, design, technology, anthropology, economics, agriculture, military affairs or modern media, they will need to think about how to apply their disciplinary knowledge to specific places. A “whole of university” commitment to area studies teaching, including South Asian studies, has long been a key mechanism for drawing on multiple disciplines.

Even with small numbers of area studies majors, the world’s best universities do not see area studies as a niche endeavour. On the contrary, they see it as a central feature of their global mission. Strong universities without robust, independent, and widely accessible area studies programs open themselves up to accusations of antiquated parochialism and a poor understanding of the interdisciplinary trends that powerfully shape our world.

What should South Asian studies offer?

Today, South Asian studies programs in Australia should include internships, opportunities to study abroad and virtual classrooms connecting Australian students to their counterparts elsewhere.

Asian studies programs should also include language options, because effective communication with rising regions like South Asia is essential. Keep in mind that only 10% of India’s population speak English.

At its most fundamental, good area studies and good South Asian studies allow people to understand that they are, as French philosopher Michel de Montaigne put it in an essay on global education written 450 years ago “like a dot made by a very fine pencil” on the world map. It teaches them how they fit within a global whole.

Beyond this, area studies helps people understand and confidently engage with forms of difference and diversity. It fosters key skills for interacting with peers overseas as well as global diasporas. This includes connecting with foreign organisations, managing communications and cultivating an active sense of global citizenship.

Area studies allows us to develop an understanding of our common humanity across national boundaries – something Indian scholar Veena Das has written about in her book Critical Events.

Now is the time for Australian universities to place area studies teaching at the core of an internationally engaged education. We must provide a much larger number of Australians with a deeper understanding of South Asia.

* Professor of Geography, The University of Melbourne.

** Associate Professor, Asia Institute, The University of Melbourne.

Source – The Conversation, June 14, 2021, Published under Creative Commons Licence.

‘Hyper-connectivity’ demands world be ‘redesigned’: Sam Pitroda

The webinar in progress. Screen grab-SAT

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 21 June 2021: India’s father of the computer and telecommunications revolution and former advisor to Indian Prime Minister’s Rajiv Gandhi and Dr.Manmohan Singh, Sam Pitroda has ushered in a new plan to rid the world of major issues plaguing the world. Locked up during the COVID-19 pandemic in Chicago and during this long period his thoughts culminated into “Redesign the World – A Global Call to Action”, a 272 pages (published 4 May 2021) action plan to ‘redesign’ the world, designed 75 years ago, around the time Sam was born.

It is this book on that the Indian Overseas Congress Australia organized an interaction (webinar) with panelists Dr. Pradeep Taneja, Melbourne University, Prof. Rolf Gerritson, Charles Darwin University, and Prof Veena Sahajwalla, Australian Research Council and attendees.

Talking about the motivation behind the book and the idea Sam said, ” I was locked up because of the Carona crisis and I thought the world was designed in 1942 with democracy, human rights, consumerism, and military strength in mind. It is 75 years old and now the world is connected. This is an old design. For the hyper-connected world, a new design is needed. It’s, basically, a product of the lockout.

The two systems – China’s is a closed system plus market and the US plus West system is an open one. But because of hyper-connectivity, all we do is obsolete and the world needs a ‘redesign’. Both the systems run on command and control.


The ‘redesign’ needs to focus on people and the planet with sustainability, inclusion, equality, equity, and justice. We need a new way of thinking.”

Taking a swipe at the recent G-7 summit, Sam says, ” They are only for their own interests, not about humanity. They have to rise above it. Democracy has to be inclusive. For example, both the US and India are not inclusive.”

Sam agreed with SAT’s observation about high tech companies not agreeing to his ‘redesign’ concept because they would get hurt economically. So, change has to come from the bottom – the desire to do that is essential, High Tech has no interest in it, he says.

Commenting on a question by Dr. Pradeep Taneja about the ‘Biden doctrine’ of a new ‘cold war’ between democracy and autocracy, Sam says, “it’s a war of ideas. China has to open up and the US has to engage with the people.”

Seventy-nine years old Sam Pitroda’s main inspirations, he says, are Gandhi and Einstein. He was born to Gujarati parents in Odhisa and educated in Vadodra, Gujarat. Later he did his Electrical Engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. He is an internationally recognized telecom inventor, entrepreneur, development thinker, and policy maker who has spent fifty years in information and communications technology (ICT) and related global and national developments. Plus, Sam is a serial entrepreneur who has started several companies in the United States. He holds around 20 honorary PhDs, close to 100 worldwide patents, and has published five books and numerous papers. He lives in Chicago with his wife.


PM ScoMo bats for “world order that favours freedom with liberal values” ; supports probe into the origins of COVID-19

Photo- @PerthUSAsia

By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 9 June 2021: Australian Prime Minister today minced no words batting for a “world order that favors freedom with liberal values” and cautioned about world instability with a danger of conflict in the Indo-Pacific region. He called the Indo-Pacific an ‘epicenter’ of competition in the region. The Australian Prime Minister was today addressing a select gathering live-streamed and televised at the Perth USAsia Centre ahead of his departure to the G-7 Summit.

The speech without naming focussed on the obvious rising global economic power of China and its influence in the world and the Indo-Pacific region. The PM’s reference to an open liberal society many times in the speech, sniped at the authoritarian set up in China and the challenges it posed to the liberal democracies. That Australia is firmly embedded in the US-led western alliance was laced with many words in the speech.

He said the G-7 countries will emphasize vibrant liberal democracy, open societies, sovereign capacity, countering challenges, and business-led growth. “We cannot be casual about our values,” he said.

Touching the digital and tech issues, the PM said, Our technological edge is “under challenge” and that has to be overcome by us and our allies. Technology should reflect our “shared values”, he said.

The PM referred to Japan and India as being part of the ‘ reliable supply chains’ to meet the emerging global challenges. He also said the World Health Organisation (WHO) be strengthened and the origins of the COVID-19 be investigated.

Morrison added a positive note saying competition in the Indo-Pacific should not lead to conflict and we are ready for dialogue with any country including China.

- The report will be updated.

MUSINGS: #protest4partners & ‘civilization’


By Neeraj Nanda

MELBOURNE, 10 May 2021: Recently, I went to cover a rally at Victoria’s Parliament steps, by people who are separated from their partner, fiancé, or spouse because Australia has delayed their visas. The many men and women (mostly young) demonstrating under the banner of #protest4partners are separated from their loved ones. One placard said, “14 months apart” and another said, “Fiancés are immediate family” and another said, “582 days apart”.

I was making videos and taking still photographs when I noticed a quite Indian-looking young man. I went to him and asked him why he was at the rally and where he came from. He turned out to be a Gujarati working in Melbourne and separated from his wife for 20+ months. Reluctantly, he said his wife (in Gujarat) was not getting a visa and if she does not get it soon he might quit Australia. He said he had written to concerned authorities but things do not move here.

Meanwhile, my sympathetic mind asked him – Why do so many people leave Gujarat for overseas pastures? “This is a trend there and is on”, he replied. Plus, “one Australian dollar makes 57 Rupees”, he said. We were at the sidelines of the rally and the young man seemed to be getting emotional. So, I told him, I will try to do a story about your case and hope something might happen.

“For how long Indians will do cleaning jobs in Australia. We did not come here for this. We are being used, “he said. The boy seemed to be speaking from his heart. An element of frustration and helplessness was visible.

“You see the Westerners doing this to us despite we having an ancient civilization. In fact, after the initial migrations from Africa, we spread civilization across the world and now they are dominating. The Aryan invasion theory is wrong. There is archaeological evidence we are the most advanced indigenous civilization”, he said.

Confronted by his ‘civilization’ stuff, I said, “But this is the 21st century and we have to move accordingly and adjust.” Na Na, “I will leave if my wife does not get a spouse visa soon.”

Something then stuck to my mind and I asked him, “Do you have Permanent Residency” (PR) to stay in Australia. Reply, “Wahi to nahi hi, apply kar rakha hi aur main wait kar raha hoon” (I have applied for PR and waiting for it).

I asked, “So, how can your wife get a spouse visa if you don’t have PR yourself.” The fellow baffled, could not answer. Anyway, I handed over my business card to him and asked him to give me a call do discuss the matter. I wondered I was sure, most cases are human tragedies with different connotations. Was the ‘civilization’ argument the last refuge of an emotionally down human?

Meanwhile, two MP’s (Greens and Labor) addressed the gathering and promised to fight for the cause. My Tweet about the rally seems to be doing well.